When I was a school principal, I had a ring of keys that hung from a clip on my belt. I recall one time a student came up to me and very discreetly said, “Mr. Taylor, do you want to find someone smoking?” He then told me where they were. As I walked away, he said, “Mr. Taylor, hold your keys.” And he motioned to the keys on my belt. That was the first time I realized the students were tracking me by the clanging sound of those keys.
After Peter wisely and correctly identified Jesus as the Son of GOD, Jesus said to him, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 16:19)
I believe Jesus rewarded Peter that day by promising him the privilege of unlocking the kingdom, the church, the abode of the saved under the coming new covenant. It is noteworthy the word key is in the plural form. Peter’s unlocking the kingdom happened on at least 3 different occasions. Let’s observe each of these.
The first occasion occurred in Acts 2 on Pentecost. It is Peter’s sermon that is recorded in verses 14-36. This sermon was delivered before Jews from various nations according to verse 5. At the conclusion, the Jews were cut to the heart and wanted to know what they should do. Peter then gave instructions on how to become a part of the church, the kingdom. This was the unlocking and opening of the door of the church to those of a Jewish background. Verse 47 notes that those who responded to Peter’s message were added to the church.
The second occurrence we note is found in Acts 10. It is estimated that about 10 years had passed during which time the church was growing in size but only with the converts of Jewish backgrounds. Peter received a vision convincing him the church was to be opened to Gentiles as well as Jews. This was going against centuries of segregation. Peter was called to the Gentile home of Cornelius. He began his sermon acknowledging the fact that GOD was no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) Peter continued and preached the message of Jesus to the household of Cornelius. They too were baptized in the name of the Lord and became a part of the kingdom. (Acts 10:48) The second key unlocked the church, making entry possible, for the Gentiles.
Sometimes people will wonder about sins committed after their conversion. Peter’s 3rd key revealed GOD’S second law of pardon and dealt with a Christian who had sinned. In the city of Samaria, Peter encountered a man named Simon who had recently been baptized by Philip. Simon saw that Peter had the ability to lay his hands on new converts and bestow on them the ability to perform miracles. Simon saw an opportunity and offered to pay Peter for this ability.
Peter responded to Simon, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of GOD could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in the matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of GOD. Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray GOD if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”
Peter laid out the plans for an erring child of GOD to once again get his life right with the Lord. He was to repent (stop the wrong) and pray to GOD for forgiveness. The church at Laodicea, with all its troubles, was given the same instructions in Revelation 3:19.
Very soon after these 3 instances, the apostle Paul became the most prominent of the apostles in the latter part of the book of Acts. Paul penned 13 of the New Testament epistles, while Peter wrote only two. But it was Peter who was blessed with the privilege of unlocking the kingdom to the Jews, the Gentiles, and the wayward Christian. Indeed, it was Peter who had been given the keys to the kingdom.
Oh yeah, about those keys on my belt. I held my keys that day as I slipped around back of the old ag shop and caught the young men smoking. When I stepped around the corner, those boys sure were surprised and as I write this I am smiling at the memory these many years later.